Coming of Age
Coming of Age (CoA, COA) is a Unitarian Universalist program in which a congregation fosters the delicate transition of its children into young adulthood. Although COA programs vary by congregation, they typically mark the individual’s transition from younger religious education programs into a youth group.
Young people within the congregation (usually aged 12 and above) are paired with adult mentors who are members of the congregation. The goal is to help the young people investigate their personal spirituality with the support of their mentors. Youth participants in the program are encouraged to develop a greater sense of what they believe. They do this through discussion, listening to guest speakers, and participating in retreats and workshops.
Workshops may be designed to prompt the youth, challenge their modes of thinking, or aid them in furthering their ideas. The program can also include a social action or social service project together, or an organized service project which all participating youth and mentors do together, such as cooking and serving food at a soup kitchen.
At the end of the COA program, youth and their mentors prepare a service in which they present their individual credo statements — written statements of belief and perspectives developed over the course of the program. These statements vary in many ways, and presentations can be artwork, multi-media or reading. Typically, participants who do not wish to present a credo statement may communicate their findings in other ways; for example a choreographed dance or a musical piece they have written. Favorite hymns, dances, songs, and readings may be included.
“The Coming of Age program signals the beginning of individual spiritual searching; it is an official recognition that the youth involved have begun to search for personal truth.”